How the online experience varies around the world

Internet access overseas isn’t always as fast, dependable or trustworthy as the UK’s online infrastructure.

Friday, 14 July, 2023

It’s common practice to complain about the internet, and the speed of our connections to it.

For many people, internet coverage outside the UK extends no further than airline flight and overseas hotel WiFi.

Yet in comparison with many countries, residents of the United Kingdom are blessed with exceptional coverage and a robust, competitive broadband market.

Don’t assume that because the internet is global, internet access overseas is broadly comparable with our own connectivity.

As you read this article, you’re doing so across a highly developed national broadband network that harnesses the very latest technologies and infrastructure.

You’re free to view any site on either the surface or Dark Web, at any time and for any reason, without governmental interference.

None of those factors should be taken for granted elsewhere…

Great wall of silence

Internet access overseas is subject to the whims and diktats of ruling governments and heads of state.

As the Wagner mutiny unfolded in Russia last month, the State stifled all news or coverage.

Social media platforms like Telegram provided the only updates to Russian citizens regarding events in their own country, and these were inevitably biased by personal opinions.

Internet in China is known as the entertainment superhighway since information is blocked by the world’s most extensive firewall, developed over decades by the ruling Communist Party.

North Korea is even more repressive. Tightly controlled internet access is available from one State-controlled ISP, usually only for government employees in very limited purposes.

In these countries, you can’t access social media unless it’s officially approved. You can’t use overseas messaging apps, torrents or VPNs, view foreign news websites or send encrypted messages.

It tends to only be communist or autocratic states such as Iran which preclude their citizens from freely exploring cyberspace, though Iranians are permitted to use VPNs and torrents.

Other countries have adopted heavily censorious internet access policies without going quite as far as the Chinese.

The Syrian, Qatari and Pakistani governments have banned pornography and heavily censored social media, political content and VPNs.

Even in Europe, a dozen countries restrict political media coverage, while the Spanish and Turkish governments have censored social media tools including WhatsApp.

Two thirds of African countries implement social media restrictions, and only nine nations permit free political media discussions. South Africa is unique in blocking torrents.

Many African nations are heavily reliant on 4G mobile networks, with little hardwired infrastructure and minimal fibre optic broadband cabling.

Internet access in most developing nations is far more smartphone-focused than in developed countries, where desktop computers remain commonplace.

A sense of connection

The UK recently ranked 45th in Wisevoter’s 2023 list of internet speeds by nations.

While being wedged between Belgium and Italy might seem disappointing, our average internet speed of 145.33Mbps is more than sufficient for most online activities.

By contrast, Cuba came 176th and last in the Wisevoter table (some nations don’t publicise internet speeds) at just 7.21Mbps – suitable for basic web browsing but little else.

Other countries you might have expected to perform better include Kenya (155th, 20.54Mbps), Greece (102nd, 56.43Mbps) and Australia (73rd, 88.77Mbps).

UK internet speeds eclipse those in Austria, Argentina and South Africa, though there’s work to be done to catch Monaco (319.59Mbps) and Denmark (270.27Mbps).

Even so, headline figures tend to mask significant differences in market performance.

Italy’s average speeds are comparable to ours, yet the Italians are keen to create a single national broadband network.

That might improve infrastructure investments, but it would eliminate competition, trapping unhappy customers on a Telecom Italia-style monopoly holder.

If you’re unhappy with your existing ISP, it’s easy to find a new provider right here on

That’s not something you can rely on in terms of internet access overseas…

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!